James Reuel Smith.

Springs and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations online

. (page 32 of 46)
Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 32 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The garden that faced these Springs was laid out within
a few years of 2182 B.C., which is a date in the period of
the reign of Queen Semiramis. Having been abandoned
by her mother she was fed and kept alive by doves. She
married King Ninus, and, having requested the privilege
of sole rulership for five days, she at once had the king
murdered and prolonged her reign for forty-two years,
during which she built Babylon and erected a tomb a
mile and an eighth high for Ninus. At the end of her
reign she disappeared in the form of a dove.

The locality is now called Basitun.

Diodorus; VI. 13. Pliny; VI. 31.


The Golden Water

There was a Fountain in Persia called The Golden
Water which rose in seventy Springs.

No one but the King and his eldest sons drank of the
water of this Fountain, and to confine its use to them
it was decreed that anyone else who drank from the
Fountain should be put to death.


This account of the Golden Water was given by
Agathocles a Greek historian whose works were widely
read in antiquity but are now lost save for some
fragments that were quoted by other authors whose
writings have been preserved.

Athenaeus; XII. 10




The Aquae Sulis of the Romans were the four curative
Springs of Bath on the River Avon in England.

Their hot, chalybeate waters range in temperature
from 97 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit, and are resorted to
for the cure of gout, rheumatism and many other affec-

They rise near the river, in the center of the town, and
have a flow of more than 184,000 gallons daily.

A larger number of Roman remains have been found
near these Springs than in any other place in Britain.
Ruins of the ancient baths were uncovered in 1775, and
in 1 88 1 an entire bath was found in a complete state of

They were also called Aquae Solis, and Aquae Calidae.

Ptolemy; II. 3. § 28.



Springs of Bormo

A local deity, Bormo, gave name to Springs in two
localities in Gaul. They are exceptions that prove the
rule governing the fictions of ancient fountains and show,
like the proverbial good rule, that it may work in more
ways than one — for the transforming of a person into a
Spring, or, of a king into a god by deifying him, is seen
in the records of the Springs of Bormo to have been

After several changes in sound as are frequently caused
by faulty ears or careless tongues, Bormo, passing
through Boronis, Borvonis and Borboni, finally became
Bourbon about the Xth century a.d. ; and the house of
Bourbon, which had long been connected with more than
one throne, came at last to have a king of its own. Thus
the old local deity perpetuated in the Springs, and then
in the family name, was eventually represented, in 1589,
by a man — a man who became King Henry IV. of France.

The Roman Itineraries, on tablets of marble or metal,
gave the names of stations on the military roads, and the
distances of the places from each other in miles, called
Mille Passum and written "M P, " each representing a
thousand paces of five feet ; in these tablets the locations
of mineral Springs were marked with a small square ; and
such is the marking on a still extant tablet that officially
located the Springs of Bormo.



The waters continue to be noted for their mineral
content, and they are found in two places in central
France ; on the road to Bourges a few miles from the River
Allier; and at Bourbonne-les-bains, twenty miles north-
east of Longres, on the Borne River.

They are hot as well as saline Springs, their tempera-
tures ranging from 121 to 136 degrees.

Smith's Die. of Gk. and Ro. Geo.


Aqxjje Calim:

The Romans became acquainted with the curative
virtues of the mineral waters of the old volcanic region of
France long before the expiration of the heathen era, and
especially recognized the value of the Aquae Calidae or
Springs of Vichy, although they attracted no marked
attention from the moderns until as late as the XlXth
century, during which the place became the most popular
of all the French resorts for health, and acquired as much
vogue as it had enjoyed eighteen centuries earlier in the
reigns of Claudius and Nero, coins and remains of marble
baths of the periods of those emperors having been found
in abundance in the neighborhood of the Springs.

The home of these Springs is by the River Allier 35
miles from Moulins, where they rise at the foot of the
Auvergne mountains, and are hemmed in by hills clothed
with vineyards and orchards.

They are claimed to be the most efficacious of all alka-
line Springs in cases of indigestion, gout and catarrh.
They range in temperature from 68 to 112 degrees Fahr.
and are used both for bathing and as beverages ; for the
latter purpose they were exported a few years ago in


larger quantities than perhaps any Spring water except

Some of the Springs are acid.

Smith's Gk. and Ro. Geo. "Aquae Calidae. "


The fountain of Orge in Gallia Narbonensis was
famous, and it derived its fame from the fact that plants
that grew in its waters did not draw their nourishment
from them, but from the rains.

The neighboring cattle were so immoderately fond of
feeding on the plants of the Spring of Orge that they
would even plunge their heads below the surface in order
to crop the ultimate particles of the stems.

It is not yet known by what means the ancients ascer-
tained that it was the rain and not the Spring's water that
nourished these peculiar growths, but it has been sur-
mised that they were the Festuca Fluitans.

Pliny; XVIII. si-

Aqu/e Convenarum

The location of these Springs has not yet been agreed
upon; Bigorre, celebrated in "Lucile, " Capbern and
other places, having been suggested by different iden-

In the Antonine Itinerary they are set down as being
on the road from the Aquas Tarbellae to Toulouse, and
to the east of Lugdunum.

They may have been what Strabo refers to as the hot


Springs of the Onesii (or Monesi) which were most ex-
cellent for drinking, and were at or near Lugdunum
(St. Bertrand). They may possibly be what are now
called the Bagnieres-sur-l'Adour.

Strabo; IV. 2. §1.

Aqvje Tarbelli

The Springs of the Tarbelli were, some of them, hot,
and, others, cold.

The town of Aqs on the road to Bordeaux now possesses
those noted mineral Springs of the Tarbelli, and the
town's name is but a modification of the ancient "Aquas."

Pliny; XXXI. 2.



The Aquae Sextiae were in the territory of the Saluvii.

Aquae was the Roman designation for many medicinal
Springs and bathing places, and it is reflected in the
present name of these Springs, Aix; they are in the De-
partment of the B ouches du Rhone eighteen miles north
of Marseilles.

When, in 122 B.C., Sextius Calvinus defeated the Sa-
luvii he founded a town at the Springs, and combined his
own name and the Springs' designation for the name of
the new settlement which erected a temple to Apollo
that is believed to have been converted into the baptistry
of the present cathedral. In early times many of the
Springs there were hot, but at the present day none is of
more than a moderate warmth, about 90 or ioo° Fahr.


They are clear and transparent waters with a slightly
bitter taste, but almost devoid of any odor.

They attract a considerable clientele of women under
the impression that has been created that they act as a
cosmetic by clearing the skin and beautifying the

Pliny; III. 5- Strabo; IV. I. §5-

Aqile Gratian^e

The Aquae Gratianae are the mineral Springs of Aix-les-
Bains east of Lake Bourget and north of Chambery in
the Duchy of Savoy.

They are two hot sulphurous Springs that appear 823
feet above sea level, and have a temperature of 100
degrees Fahr.

They were resorted to as now, in the time of the Roman
empire both for bathing and for drinking.

Aix is the French name for many places possessing
Springs ; it represents the old French word Aigues which
was derived from Aquae, the Latin word for waters, and,
when combined with the name of a place, usually for
mineral Spring waters.

Smith's Gk. and Ro. Geo.



The purity of the fountain of Nemausus received the
praises of the early poets, and modern writers, describing
it under the name of the fountain of the Nymphs by
which the citizens of its native place, Nimes, now call it,


are quite as laudatory in their prose accounts of its pellu-
cidness and freedom from sediment.

Nemausus was in Gallia Narbonensis, the designation
given to that part of Gallia that bordered on the Medi-
terranean as far east as the river Var at Nice, where Italy
then began, and of which Narbonne was the chief city.
It was named after a son of Hercules.

When Nemausus was the capital of the tribe of the
Arecomisci and its twenty-four villages, the fountain
supplied the capital through a subterraneous channel;
but, as the place expanded under Roman occupancy, the
Springs of the Eure and the Aizan, 25 miles away, were
tapped and their waters were carried to the town by an
aqueduct which, where it crossed the Gar don River over
three tiers of arches, is now known as the Pont Du Gard.
The neighborhood of Nimes contains more remains of
Roman structures than any other part of France, and the
Pont Du Gard, which is thirteen miles from the city, is
one of the finest specimens in the country.

The fountain of the Nymphs rises at the foot of a well-
wooded hill in a finely adorned and beautiful park,
and its powerful upward pour has made a large pool
that has a depth of fifty feet and a width of twice as

The old subterraneous channel, and some bathing
chambers that were connected with the fountain, were
repaired wherever restoration was needed, in the time of
Louis XV.

No attempt, however, has been made to renew an
ancient semicircular temple of Diana on the hillside
above the fountain, and its roofless ruins retain un-
marred all of the picturesque effects with which the
artful touch of time adorns whatever it ravages or


The fame that Nemausus gained through its fountain
was greatly increased by its cheeses, which the epicures
of distant Rome ranked among the best that reached the

Strabo; IV. i. § 3. § 12.
Pliny; XI. 97.

Wound-Cure Springs

Pliny mentions Wound-Cure Springs in a general way,
and alleges that they possessed individual and special
properties, some of them being beneficial in the treat-
ment of injuries to the sinews, some adapted for relieving
the pain of sprains, while others had healing effects in the
case of fractures.

The Springs in the Department of the Basses-Pyre-
nees, in the southwest corner of France, were held in
similar esteem by the French soldiers of the 16th
century who regarded them as a cure for arquebus-shot
wounds, and called them the Eaux d'arquebusades. In
more peaceable times, these waters were found to be
equally valuable in treating consumption and other
forms of lung trouble, and they still continue to be re-
commended in such cases.

These Springs, now known as the Eaux Bonnes, are
located some twenty miles southeast of the village of
Oleron, and near the Eaux Chaudes which have similar

They comprise several sulphurous Springs with a
temperature of about 90 Fahr., which are used for
bathing, and a cold Spring whose water is taken in-

Pliny; XXXI. 3.




The Tungri in Gaul possessed a fountain of great
renown. It sparkled as it burst forth with numerous
bubbles, and it had a taste of iron, though that was not
noticed until the water had been swallowed.

It purged the body and drove off tertian fevers, and
dispersed calculi.

When heat was applied to the water it became turgid,
and then turned to a red color.

This description is supposed by some to refer to the
Spring in the town of Tongres in Belgium which is still
called The Fountain of Pliny ; but others connect it with
the famous Spring of Belgium's Spa whose name, applied
to mineral water places, has become a designation almost
as general as the word ' ' Springs ' ' itself.

The waters of this fountain, and of six others outside
of the town, are cold and bright, and still sparkle and
bubble with carbonic acid gas ; and they contain minute
particles of iron which the toy-makers of the town find
no less serviceable in their trade than the invalids find
them when used as a tonic, for the toys made in Spa are
given their rich brown color simply by steeping them in
the waters of the Springs.

Pliny; XXXI. 8.


The Rhone

Strabo often speaks of the sources of the Rhodanus, the
Rhone of the Romans, but he nowhere attempts to locate
them ; and Pliny says vaguely that the Rhodanus rushes
down from the Alps, and takes its name from a place
called Rhoda.

Indeed, down to the time of Ptolemy there was no
exact knowledge about the sources of the river, or about
its mouths, as to the number of which there was no
agreement, though seven seems to be the largest number
reported. How some of its mouths came to be located on
the Adriatic is mentioned in connection with the Erid-
anus, which some writers seem to have confounded with
the Rhodanus, probably from the somewhat similar
sound of the names.

This ignorance about the river is all the more promi-
nent because the Rhone was known to the Romans earlier
than any other river of the West, and Hannibal with his
elephants had followed its course in order to reach an
easy pass through which to cross the Alps.

The Rhone is now known to rise in Switzerland in the
glacier west of the pass of St. Gothard, not far from the
Sources of the Rhine. The vast mass of ice stretches
across the entire width of the valley of the Gallenstock,
the mountain whose many snow-laden peaks supply the
inexhaustible stores of frost that the slowly creeping



glacier bears down the mountain to the warmer regions
below, where the Rhone, waking from centuries of torpor
in its glacial bed, leaps to liquid life and dashes in wild
abandonment through the lower valley.

It afterwards runs into the eastern end of the lake of
Geneva, the Lacus Lemanus of the Romans, entering it
as a muddy stream that plainly marks the course of its
rushing waters; but, cleansed in the lake's fifty-mile long
bath, it emerges in the west, at Geneva, as a clear river.

After passing through a gorge of the Jura mountains,
it disappears below the rocks for three hundred feet,
under what is known as La Perte du Rhone.

The slope of the stream is from six to seven feet per
mile in many stretches, and boats on the ascending
passage are frequently forced to use the slower waters of
paralleling canals in order to make headway where the
rushing current bars upward progress. Aided by this
unusual slope, the river in running from its source to the
Gulf of Lyons, where it reaches the Mediterranean,
traverses the distance of nearly 650 miles in record time,
and receives the honor of being the most rapid river in
Europe, if not in the world.

Pliny; III. 5. Strabo; IV. i. §8.



The silver bedded Spring of the Tartessus River is
fascinating as the origin of a supposed landmark in
Homer's peculiar geography. The river, though starting
out with such bright auspices, soon developed a liking
for darkness and frequently disappeared underground,
coming as often again to light, but none the brighter after
its burrowings through the discoloring soil; and at the
end of its 360 mile course it poured dark and muddy
streams into the Atlantic Ocean, through its two separ-
ated channels, one of which, then called Gades, has long
been extinct.

Homer, and also Hesiod, regarded the country of the
river's mouths to be the farthest towards the west, and
where the sun sank into the ocean drawing night after
him over all the earth ; and the poet's early ancient com-
mentators coupled his river of Tartarus with the dark
current of the Tartessus, the name Hades having per-
haps come from the lower branch called Gades, for Pluto's
cattle were pastured near Gades. The commentators
also surmised that that neighborhood, which had a river
Lethe, now called the Lima, was the one the poet had in
mind when describing the Elysian Plain, the realm of
Pluto, and the rivers of darkness.

Wherever may have been the other places that Ulysses
visited, the very-far-west of Spain, the end of the world,



the place where daylight finally disappeared, the place
made mysterious by its distance and its dark river rolling
through lightless underground courses, all combined to
make the borders of the Atlantic much more appropriate
as a site for Hades than any of the other places that were
suggested near the heart of Greece, places that were only
relatively west to by no means a small part of the world
for whom Homer sang his story. The people of the
country through which the Tartessus flowed may have
been ancients to Homer, for they were not only reported
to be the earliest and most intelligent inhabitants of
Baetica, but were said to possess an alphabet, and ancient
writings and poems six thousand years old before the
birth of Virgil.

The river's name changed to Baetis where Baetica was
applied to the surrounding country ; then the Arabs called
it the Great River, that is to say the Wad-el-Kebir, from
which evolved its modern name of Guadalquivir.

Its source is near Castulo in the Sierra Cazorla moun-

Strabo; III. 2. § 11. and § 12.
Strabo; III. 3. 4- § 5-
Hesiod; Theogony; In. 720.
Hesiod; Weeks and Days, In. 167.


Pillars of Hercules Spring

Every age has had a mystery for solution, from the
time of the disappearance of Moses to that of the Man in
the Iron Mask, and the three days' wonder of the Shells
from the Sky that mystified Paris.

One of the mysteries of the geographers of two milleni-
ums ago was the peculiar action of the Spring in the


temple of Hercules near Gades, the Cadiz of modern
Spain, which was the cause of almost as much discussion
among the learned of long ago as was the contemporane-
ous riddle about the Pillars of Hercules, a quadruplex
query covering what and where they were, and their
number, and the origin of the name; to which riddle
there was then no generally accepted answer that settled
to every one's satisfaction whether they were Islands or
Capes or columns; whether they were in India, Germany,
Gaul; or at Gibraltar, or just east, or to the west of it;
and whether there were four, three, two or only one; and
whether they were named after the Phoenician or after
the Grecian Hercules.

Two attempts to obey an oracle, to found a city where
the pillars were, resulted in failures that were evidently
due to selecting the wrong location, and one of these was
at the Strait of Gibraltar.

In the third attempt, made by some Tyrians, the out-
come was the successful founding of Gades ; the sacrifices
were acceptable, and it was apparently proved that the
true location of the Pillars had been found in that place.

To some, it seemed clear, as the Pillars were known to
mark the limits of the world in the west, that they could
not be Calpe in Europe and Abyla in Africa that repre-
sent them near Gibraltar, because Hercules himself had
gone beyond that lion-shaped rock when he went after
and secured the coveted oxen of Geryon.

Beyond Gibraltar near Gades there was, however, a
district exactly fitted to produce such remarkable oxen as
those of Geryon; a place where the pasturage was so un-
usually nourishing that it was necessary to let blood
seven times a year from the animals that fed on it ; where
such rich milk was given that it had to be thinned with
water for cheese making; and where even the trees of one


species in the neighborhood gave a milk-like fluid when
their branches were cut.

There, on the small island of Hera south of Leon, was
the temple of Hercules, whose twelve labors were in-
dubitably typified by its distance of twelve miles from
Gades ; and in the temple were the bronze columns that
the native Iberians declared were the actual Pillars

The wisdom and truthfulness of the Oracle of the
temple had drawn to it all who sought to pry into the
future during perhaps 2700 years — for the Phoenician
Hercules was said to have founded a temple that many
years before Christ — and those many visitors had given
wide publicity to the mysterious movements of the
Temple Spring. It was a fresh- water fountain rising
nearly to the level of the sanctuary floor ; and its strange
peculiarity or paradox for which the philosophers, each
with a different explanation, strove to account, was that
when the tide of the sea rose the Spring subsided or ceased
to run, but immediately flowed again when the sea-tide fell .

At least one of the scientists of antiquity sat in the
temple day after day, watching the Spring and saturating
himself with the subject in his efforts to solve the puzzle
which no doubt could have been made clear in a moment
by reference to the oracle right at hand, an easy and
obvious line of inquiry that seems never to have occurred
to any of the overwrought investigators.

The most popular mortal explanation was that the
bosom of the ocean rose and fell as the earth, which was
alive, alternately exhaled and drew in its breath. When
it exhaled, its breath blew against the current' of the
Spring and stopped it ; and when it inhaled, the pressure
on the current was removed and the Spring bubbled up
with renewed vigor.


The site of the old temple is occupied by the church of
St. Peter; an occupation that recalls the coincidence that
the Pillars of the gate of another Saint, St. Stephen,
guarded the "Troubled Waters of Bethesda, " the only
similar intermittent Spring mentioned in the Bible.

Strabo; III. S. §7- III. 5- § 3-io.
Herodotus; II. 44-



The sources of the Tamaricus River possessed certain
powers of presaging future events. They were three in
number, separated solely by an interval of eight feet, and
they united to form a mighty stream.

They were often dry a dozen times a day, and some-
times as many as twenty, when there was not the slightest
trace of water in them; while, on the other hand, another
Spring close by flowed all the time abundantly and
without intermission.

It was considered an evil presage if those who wished
to see these Springs found them dry, as was proved in the
case of the legatus Lartius Licinius, who died seven days
after visiting the fountains when they were waterless.

These Springs were in the extreme north of Spain, in
the district of Cantabria where the present Basques
originated. The Cantabrians were the most ferocious
people in the country and the last to be subdued, and had
little love for Lartius who was the Roman governor ; and
Pliny was perhaps unduly impressed by the presage
instanced, as he had not yet accepted an offer of $4000
that the governor had made for the author's unused
literary notes.

Pliny; XXXI. 18.


Magnet-Like Springs

In Spain in the territory of the Carrinenses two Springs
burst out close together that had the properties of the
poles of a magnet — one absorbed everything, and the
other threw everything out.

Pliny; II. 106.


False Goldfish Spring

In the same country (Spain) there was another Spring
which gave to the fish in it the appearance of gold — but
when taken out of the Spring the fish were seen to differ
in no respect from ordinary sorts.

Pliny; II. 106.



It was by means of the Springs of Ilerda that Caesar,
n the first year of the Civil War of 49 B.C., conquered all
of the forces that Pompey had been able to array against
him in Iberia.

Having crossed the Rubicon, driven Pompey over
into Greece and made himself master of Italy within three
months, Caesar left Rome in the early part of April, and
in four weeks transferred his activities to the other side
of the world where Spain, then under the name of Iberia,
still offered resistance; and there the Springs of Ilerda,
having been drawn over to his side in the contest, working
with even more expedition than their commander, en-


abled him to bring the Spanish campaign to a close in

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 32 of 46)